Monday, October 30, 2006

"We Do A Disservice By Using A Moshul Like That"

(Picture courtesy of

Chabakuk Elisha commenting on Understanding Lech Lecha:

Do you not think that it's kind of forced illustration?

Personally, I understand Lech Lecha more like this: Imagine a man who has a close relationship with G-d for many decades – he was tested and rose to the occasion on many occasions – G-d even publicly saved him from certain death (according to most opinions). He has devoted his life to teaching belief in G-d.

He’s no youngster, and suddenly G-d tells him:

Ok, change in plans; it’s time to go. Don’t ask where – it will be fine, and this way less people will want to come with you.

The man says, it’s all about You, G-d. I’m ready willing and able to go… and he does. He packs up and heads out of town.

"Where are you going" they ask. "Wherever G-d wants,” he answers.

He has been telling people about G-d forever, I don’t know if they were all that shocked now. The time had come for change, and for change to happen he needs to make a physical change as well… he needs to change location, cultures, food, water, mazal, everything. In this case change is good, and so he goes – but he doesn’t go for any reason beside one: He really believes. G-d is real and live, the reasons don’t matter, only G-d’s will matters.

You see, that’s who Avrohom is. But I think we often misunderstand what was unique about the first Jew. What makes Avrohom so special anyway?

G-d was a not new concept, and this very same G-d wasn’t M.I.A. - There was this huge mabul not all that long ago, and the great dispersion was during Avrohom’s life. Noach, Shem & Ever were busy teaching about G-d & Torah for hundreds of years – and I imagine that they had many students as well. So what was the groundbreaking discovery or significant element that made Avrohom so special? The difference was what is called “Daas.”

Avrohom took his religion seriously – unlike ever before. When he considered the sun as G-d, he served it with devotion – but at night it left him empty and alone. How could he go on without G-d? The same problem with the moon, or any other possible G-d that he crossed off his list. Others were unable to understand his problem: “So? Pray to multiple gods” they said. They had no problem: so what if each god wasn’t all powerful? But Avrohom did. He was looking for the real thing and he meant it – he couldn’t be satisfied unless he could experience G-d on the level of daas – he had to know Him, have a relationship with Him and devote himself to Him.

The word daas (commonly translated as knowledge) reflects true knowing. For example, the verse uses the term daas to connote intimacy, as in “Adam knew Chava.” Avrohom took belief in G-d to a new level; to him it was far more real, it was the level of daas. So can we compare this to R’ Parkoff’s example? Can we relate to Avrohom’s “Lech Lecha?”

I dunno, but in my opinion we do a disservice by using a moshul like that...

Smashed Hat comments:

The mashul sounds like one of those famous Novhardiker "tests" that the baalei mussar used to put themselves through in order to develop their midas ha'bitochon or to improve their midos, etc. Surely Avraham Avinu was a shining example to us of emunah u'bitochon.

To respond to CE, though, another great midah of Avraham Avinu was his kiruv efforts. I'm not so sure that Shem v'Ever lacked the midas ha'da'as that you zero in on (which certainly Avraham Avinu also possessed to a high degree). Yet Shem v'Ever, as great as they were, had their quiet little yeshivah, while Avraham Avinu went out of his way to bring people back to Hashem, even ovdei avodah zora (whom we, too, might be required to work with if not for the spiritual risks involved).

So I would submit that this was the outstanding trait of the first of the Avos: "l'man da'as KOL 'AMEI HA'ARETZ ki Hashem hu ha-Elokim, ein ode!"


At October 30, 2006 at 6:38:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

In the "About The Author" on the back flap of the book it says "Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff was born in the United States. He studied for many years in Yeshiva Torah Ore in Jerusalem, under the tutelage of HaGaon HaRav Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita, from whom he received Rabbinic ordination. Rabbi Parkoff is one of the founders and Rashei Yeshiva of Yeshiva Shaare Chaim established twenty-four years ago in Jerusalem, which was a forerunner of yeshivos in Israel especially geared for the American mesivta graduate....Rabbi Parkoff's acclaimed shiurim in Gemara, Halachah, Hashkafah, and Mussar have helped develop a generation of young scholars, teachers, and bnei Torah imbued with a deep sense of commitment to Torah Judaism.

Chabakuk Elisha & Smashed Hat: Do you think his non-Chassidic background explains his mashul on Lech Lecha?

At October 30, 2006 at 8:03:00 PM EST, Blogger Ezzie said...

ASJ - Congrats on 100K :)

At October 30, 2006 at 8:42:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thanks Ezzie. For those who don't know what you are referring to - today my Sitemeter indicated that my blog has received over 100,000 hits since I began.

At October 30, 2006 at 8:54:00 PM EST, Anonymous Smashed Hat said...

Mazal tov ASJ!

As for Rabbi Parkoff's viewpoint, I think he's just talking about a particular trait that we should all develop to the highest possible degree, and which we can derive from Avraham Avinu. As Chazal say, "Every Jew should ask himself: when will my deeds be comparable to those of the Avos?"

Although I haven't read his sefer, it sounds like this was part of a longer discussion on bitachon.

I was sort of digressing on CE's response, that if anything, Avraham Avinu's distinction over the tzaddikim who preceded him was his universal vision coupled with a lifetime of mesirus nefesh to reach out to everyone -- although there can be no argument that to do this required great bitachon and all of the middos d'kedushah.

At October 31, 2006 at 6:28:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Smashed Hat: Thanks for your reply and your "mazal tov". :)

At October 31, 2006 at 8:11:00 AM EST, Blogger Bob Miller said...

We're always so wisely finding ways to knock Noach, Shem, Ever, and other greats for not being Avraham Avinu. News Flash: Avraham was unique. Although Avraham is our model, this does not take away from the particular merits of these other tzaddikim.

At October 31, 2006 at 10:50:00 AM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...



I think he was trying to take the idea of Avrohom Avinu's bitachon and make it real to us - a noble atempt. My point was that I don't think the mashul fits.

I also never meant to be grading tzaddikim - it was not my intent at all. Yes, cearly A"A was uniqe (I even said so in the comment); he was on a higher level, otherwise we could have refered to Noach or Shem as the first Jew... Avrohom surpassed them; but that's not an insult to anyone.

At October 31, 2006 at 12:58:00 PM EST, Blogger Bob Miller said...


My comment was really directed at the annual onslaught of sermons, etc., putting Noach and the others down. I realize your emphasis was different.

At November 1, 2006 at 11:04:00 AM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

I agree with the sentiment, and chassidic sources generally agree with you too. Also, in sifrei kabbala, Noach is the paradigm of the tzaddik. In addition Moshe Rabbeinu is a gilgul of Noach...

At November 4, 2008 at 5:43:00 PM EST, Blogger Shorty said...

I am trying to understand - are people saying the R. Parkoff over simplified the lesson in Lech Lechah?

It seems to me he has a bit.

In my opinion (and i am so very new at this!) - Lech Lechah isn't about blind faith, and just going with the flow, which is kind of what R. Parkoff is describing. I guess it seems like its more about the spiritual journey than about the physical destination itself. Abraham needed to break away from mainstream. Part of this was a physical separation, because clearly being around negative influences isn't healthy, but much of it is spiritual, following G-d's guidance (rather than the ramblings of people who believe in idols and the like).


Post a Comment

<< Home